The top brass of local football think it’s time overseas-based stars get back into Bafana, but the coach has his own ideas
Safa’s top brass and coach Shakes Mashaba are heading for a possible collision over the selection of overseas players.
Members of the local football administrator’s national executive committee (NEC) this week told City Press they would like to broker a peace deal between Mashaba and some estranged overseas-based players.
But they are in for a shock, as they will face resistance from Mashaba – who has said categorically he has no plans to have a sit-down with these players.
Following Bafana Bafana’s early elimination from the Africa Cup of Nations (Afcon), Safa wants to resolve the impasse between Mashaba and the affected players.
As expected, Safa is not happy with the team’s showing in Equatorial Guinea after being knocked out in the first round. Some of the executives are of the view the team could have done better had some of the overseas-based players been included.
But they said they could only recommend and not enforce it, as the final decision would rest with Mashaba and his technical team.
“This must not be viewed as interference in team selection, but merely intervening to make sure all South African players get an equal chance to play. We are not saying they would have done better, but we cannot fold our arms. It is our duty and responsibility to provide leadership,” said one member, speaking on condition of anonymity.
Mashaba surprisingly left out Ajax Amsterdam midfielder Thulani Serero from his final team. This was after Serero failed to report to the camp in December.
Other players left out in the cold were Kamohelo Mokotjo, who plays for FC Twente, also in Holland, and May Mahlangu, who rejected a call-up last year, claiming he was tired. Safa responded by banning the former IFK Göteborg midfielder from the national team.
But our Safa sources said that as much as they agreed with Mashaba’s decision to drop these players, the door should not be closed forever.
“We do not condone their behaviour and are fully behind Mashaba, but some of the decisions are too harsh and affect the team.”
Another official said they had not wanted to destabilise Mashaba’s plans before the tournament and believed now was the time to get involved.
Safa chief executive Dennis Mumble said: “For somebody to reject the country is a major misunderstanding. That’s why we took the steps we took. And that’s only one player [Mahlangu]. We are serious when it comes to making sure the players honour the call-ups. There’s no need to sit down and have a peace deal or whatever; we are already at peace with them. It is the circumstances that lead to a player not honouring a call-up that is a major concern for us. If it is negative response, we will also then respond to protect the integrity of the country.”
Mashaba had told City Press in Equatorial Guinea: “Unfortunately, there is no plan to go visit [overseas-based players]. Why should I? Because I am told they are playing at the highest level? There is no need for me to go there, because I will be wasting energy and time.”
Mashaba said other countries did not seem to have problems with their overseas-based players, as they respected their national colours.
“Look at Senegal. The whole team plays in Europe, but they all heed the call whenever they are called. You don’t get people asking what is in it for them. If you look at some of those overseas-based players ... look at how many years they have been in Bafana and compare that with the team’s achievements.”
Addressing the media during the team’s arrival at OR Tambo International airport yesterday, Mashaba added: “Every South African player has a chance to play for the national team, provided they meet the criteria (based on form, fitness level, potential, discipline and patriotism). I am aware how contested this area is. But one point comes to mind: where is patriotism?”
Mashaba said he would like to play friendly matches ahead of the 2017 Afcon qualifiers later this year.
Mumble added Safa would do a technical analysis in the coming week on what was next for the team.
“We have a major match for Bafana at the end of March that will most likely take place in Durban. Initially we thought we would get Argentina, but there is another opponent we will announce soon.”
He confirmed the yet-to-be revealed opposition would hail from beyond the African continent.